Texas awaits ruling on controversial immigration law

The law would allow Texas authorities to arrest people suspected of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
Posted at 4:36 PM, Mar 21, 2024

The back-and-forth legal battle over a controversial Texas immigration law now rests with three judges on an appeals court panel.

The law, currently stayed until the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rules whether it can go into effect, empowers law enforcement all over the Lone Star State to arrest people "suspected" of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

"Texas has decided we are at the epicenter of this crisis. We are on the front line and we're going to do something about it," said Aaron Nielson, Texas' solicitor general. 

The Biden administration argues the measure is unconstitutional and that those powers belong only to the federal government. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the law to take effect without ruling on the merits of the law. 

However, a late-night order from the 5th Circuit put the law on hold again. In a hearing Wednesday's hearing, the appeals court appeared divided on whether the law should stand.

The three-judge panel is made up of a Trump appointee, a George W. Bush appointee and a Biden appointee. Only the Trump appointee, who used to be the solicitor general of Texas, appeared to be sympathetic to Texas' arguments. The Biden appointee didn't ask any questions or make comments during the hearing.

Chief Judge Priscilla Richman, a George W. Bush appointee, seemed skeptical, quoting a 2012 Supreme Court ruling against Arizona that puts the power to admit or remove migrants with the federal government.

"It seems to me this statute washes that away," Richman said. 

Judge Andrew Oldham, a Donald Trump appointee, asked about states' powers on immigration.

"Is there anything a state can just do because they think it's a good matter for the people of Texas outside of what Congress has allowed them to do?" asked Oldham. 

The court, considered to be the most ideologically conservative in the appellate system, is still mulling a decision. 

If the law takes effect, critics worry about civil rights violations and wrongful arrests.

Supreme Court lifts stay on TX law allowing police to arrest migrants
The U.S. Supreme Court.

Supreme Court lifts stay on TX law allowing police to arrest migrants

The law allows any police officer in Texas to arrest any migrants suspected of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.